A peer-reviewed study published in The Journal of Trauma Practice 2003 interviewed 854 people in prostitution in nine countries. It found that prostitution “dehumanizes, commodifies and fetishizes women”. The vast majority of the people interviewed:
- Reported experiencing sexual, physical and verbal violence in prostitution.
- Reported a history of homelessness and childhood physical and sexual abuse.
- Met the clinical criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Wanted to leave prostitution but couldn’t see how.
The study concluded that prostitution is multi-traumatic regardless where it takes place. It includes the following account as an example:
“The account of a woman from the United States who prostituted primarily in strip clubs but also in massage, escort, and street prostitution is typical in that it encompasses the following types of violence: In strip club prostitution she was sexually harassed and assaulted. The job required her to tolerate verbal abuse (with a coerced smile), being grabbed and pinched on the legs, buttocks, breasts, and crotch. Sometimes this resulted in bruises and scratches on her thighs and arms and breasts. Her breasts were squeezed until she was in severe pain. She was humiliated by customers ejaculating on her face. She was physically brutalized, and her hair was pulled as a means of control and torture. She was severely bruised from beatings and frequently had black eyes. She was repeatedly beaten on the head with closed fists, sometimes causing concussions and unconsciousness. From these beatings, her jaw was dislocated and her eardrum was damaged. Many years later her jaw is still dislocated. She was cut with knives. She was burned with cigarettes by customers who smoked while raping her. She was gang raped. She was raped individually by at least 20 men at different times in her life. Rapes by johns and pimps resulted in internal bleeding.”
59% of those interviewed in Germany, where prostitution is legal, said that they did not think that legalisation had made them any safer from rape and physical assault.
For more about the brutal reality of prostitution, we recommend Joe Parker’s essay, How Prostitution Works. Here is his conclusion:
“People who have had luckier lives, as well as those who profit from the sex industry in some way, frequently refer to prostitution and pornography as “victim-less crimes”. They point to a tiny fraction of sex workers who actually might be involved by choice. They selectively read history to find some tiny minority, somewhere, at some time, who gained something in the sex business.
The very selectiveness of their attention indicates that, on some level, they know that for almost everyone, involvement in the sex industry is a terrible misfortune.
As many an old cop will say, “Anyone who thinks prostitution is a victimless crime, hasn’t seen it up close.”